heritage bushland property to be bulldozed for Peninsula freeway

Joyce and Simon Welsh, owners of the historic Westerfield property on Robinsons Road in the Green Wedge south of Frankston have been notified that clearing will begin on Monday 5 July on the 2.656 ha of their pristine remnant bushland property to be bulldozed to make way for the Peninsula Link Freeway.

In response a community picket has been established.

Update - Wed 7 July

The community picket around Westerfield’s grassy woodland has continued today without incident, and is planned to continue tomorrow and Friday, and possibly next week as well.  Local groups are asking for more volunteers to help with this – whatever time you have to  spare will be useful, but especially early morning.

Please see below for contact and location details if you can make it down there.

Details on the picket

Time: 7 am start but it may well continue during the morning.
Date: Monday 5 July 2010 - and on-going

Place: Robinson's Road Frankston South. See Melways Map Page 103 C 11.  The site of the picket is next to Bayside Christian College and near the intersection of Mc Clelland Drive and Robinson's Road.  As the road might be blocked it is suggested that you approach via Robinsons Road and drive into the Westerfield property to park.  The driveway is opposite Robinsons Park and is just past a white water tower. It will be signposted. Then you will have to walk down to the end of the road. Note that the proposed route of the freeway is marked on the Melways map.  

Contacts for the picket site: S Walsh Mobile: 0405 380 312  Also  Gillian Collins Pines Protectors  0414 309 960 and Jim Kerin Defenders of the South East Green Wedge Mobile 0409 501 764

MEDIA RELEASE                                                                                                 July 4, 2010


Joyce and Simon Welsh, owners of the historic Westerfield property on Robinsons Road in the Green Wedge south of Frankston were notified by phone today, Sunday, that clearing will begin at 7am tomorrow, Monday 5 July on the 2.656 ha of their pristine remnant bushland property to be bulldozed to make way for the Peninsula Link Freeway. The freeway route takes in a number of other environmentally significant sites. State Government plans would destroy bandicoot habitat, heathland, grassy woodland and grazing land by running the Peninsula Link through the Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, historic Westerfield bushland and down the southern reservation past Eramosa Road on the Mornington Peninsula.  Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has approved the freeway route despite the presence of rare species.

Westerfield is a heritage-listed house and property with bushland of state significance established in the 1920s by Russell Grimwade and now owned by the Welsh family: smwelsh38@yahoo.com.au; 0405 380 312.

Thanks to the care taken by the Grimwades and the Welshes, the Westerfield bushland is a pristine high quality remnant still in its pre-white settlement state, of state significance for the conservation of endangered Grassy Woodland. The proposed freeway alignment will destroy most of the remnant including a wetland dam immediately south of Robinson’s Road, which provides habitat for the Great Egret.   

The bulldozing is to proceed despite an appeal lodged by the Welshes with the Heritage Council, which was heard on 25 June but has not yet been determined.  To bulldoze the Westerfield bushland before the appeal is heard and determined would be a travesty of the Heritage Council process, following Heritage Victoria approval of the destruction, another travesty.

Frankston Council resolved last week to call for the bulldozing to be stopped until appropriate native vegetation offsets are in place as required by State law. This is the first project to be implemented under the State Government Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act, which exempts such projects from most environmental protection legislation.

We call on the Transport Minister Tim Pallas to halt the bulldozing at until the Heritage Council makes its decision and until offsets are in place. The HC decision could see the reduction of the area of bushland to be destroyed and could require compliance with conditions regarding the minimisation of vegetation removal and the relocation of rare plants.

The Welshes plan to deny access to the LMA bulldozers as the land is still technically theirs. Despite a Public Acquisition Order having been served, the land has not been paid for and is still in the Welsh name.

This follows the disastrous bulldozing of the Willow Road Reserve last month, when remnant bushland was illegally bulldozed,  native sugar gliders, birds and arborial frogs were deprived of habitat or killed and hollow trees marked for retention or relocation as habitat trees were carelessly bulldozed and destroyed. (See below eyewitness accounts from a local naturalist and animal rescuer.)

Central to this tragedy is that the Westerfield bushland and nearby Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve could have been saved from destruction had tunnels been employed, like the tunnel that save the Mullum Mullum Creek from destruction by the Eastlink Freeway.  Clearly the environment and people of Frankston are not as highly valued by State Government as the eastern suburbs.  

This release may be attributed to Rosemary West, Joint Coordinator, Green Wedges Coalition (incorporated as the Green Wedges Guardians Alliance)  9772 7124 or  0418 554 799; Rowest@ozemail.com.au

Please find attached submissions relating to Westerfield.  More pics & info at: http://www.savethepines.net/index.php/threatened_woodlands_and_wetlands/...

Background: Westerfield bushland destruction

This breaches a number of Environmental Effects Statement Panel recommendations, for instance:
-  The EES Panel report recommended that the freeway be built through a neighbouring school as it would be easier to relocate the school than to replace the remnant bushland. It went on to recommend that:  
1. In the event that destruction of vegetation at Westerfield (Patch 46a) cannot be avoided, carry out detailed targeted surveys for flora and fauna prior to commencing works and implement appropriate relocation of significant flora species.
2. Implement all other mitigation measures at Westerfield (Patch 46a) recommended in the Biosis Technical Report.
3. In the event that destruction of vegetation at Westerfield (Patch 46a) cannot be avoided, initiate all measures necessary to obtain the appropriate offsets including acquisition or protection of whole properties.

Planning Minister Madden’s response included the following:
It is my assessment that a report on opportunities for reducing the effects on the native vegetation of the Westerfield property be prepared by the proponent to the satisfaction of the Secretary DSE   before works commence on that property. This report is to be taken into account in finalising the bypass design and the component of the EMP covering the mitigation measures for the Westerfield property.

With bulldozing due to begin tomorrow, there have been no detailed targeted surveys for flora and fauna and no relocation of significant species, despite Joyce Welsh having received a letter from LMA some time ago saying species would be relocated. Mitigation measures recommended by Biosis have not been carried out and appropriate offsets have not been provided as required.

If a report has been provided to the satisfaction of the secretary of DSE, as required by the Minister, it like the Environmental Management Plans, has not been made publicly available and no-one is publicly available.

Eyewitness Accounts of previous destruction in the Peninsula Link freeway reserve in May:  
Local naturalist Alison Kuiter 0439 342 192; 9766 4304 email alisonkuiter@optusnet.com.au :

Regarding the orchid colonies ...The orchid site on McLelland Drive north of Cranbourne Road which had a quite large population of Chiloglottis trapeziformis, (Dainty Wasp Orchid) including the only population of the green form was totally destroyed. The spiranthus site south of Cranbourne Road is all but destroyed and the hydrological changes will finish them all together. There were also nodding greenhood, tall greenhood, trim greenhood, maroon greenhood, pink/white fingers, autumn bird orchid, dotted sun orchid, slender sun orchid, pink sun orchids, several species of onion orchids, tongue orchids, helmet orchids, mosquito orchids and possibly tiger orchids. Many of the species may be common elsewhere, but this was another step to driving them towards becoming rare, certainly locally extinct. We would have liked to rescue at least some of these orchids, but works were rushed through before anyone could say or do anything.
Animal rescuer Michelle Thomas 0409360871; 0401544515 email

animalia.shelter@gmail.com says: "It is total devastation: the blade of the bull dozer pushes through the habitat and only stops if the animal rescuers see something move or attempt to run out. Last week thousands of arboreal frogs were bulldozed into the ground. We put the sugar glider population of pobblebonk at around 57 individuals. After they got to the coastal tea tree the chatter that night amongst the sugar gliders was pretty intense: a small group of rescuers went into the area to see what was gone and we were surprised at just how many we could hear. I can guarantee that they did not remove that many the next day. Sugar gliders don't run out of hollows when they are bulldozed they just hunker down and wait for night fall, how ever these trees are just piled up on top of each other along with dirt and debris: they then can't escape and die a slow death. We found fresh water rat digs and much that looks like bandicoot digs. They only have one animal person working on site and any one time and they are cutting corners like crazy."  
Further comment:  Gillian Collins – Pines Protectors  978 25 116, 0414 309 960;
Jim Kerin, Defenders of the South east Green Wedge;  0409 501 764; 8774 4879.